The Apostates

          “Alright, now straight back!”  Rita called as she directed my midsize between the absurdly narrow white lines of the guest parking lot beside her apartment. She was small in my mirror, with jet black hair and a fantastically attractive dimple on her left cheek that was placed there by an errant golf club swung by her insidious younger brother. I was growing increasingly frustrated with Rita’s directions into the spot not because they were poor but because she was going about it very calmly which did not match my mood at all. I hate it when people remain calm in the face of great personal and societal injury partly because outrage seems to me to be a necessary and effective recourse and partly because I envy the strength it must take not to punch holes in drywall, throw fragile objects, etc.
          The place was like an alpine terrace farm, overlooking the worst part of town, one lego brick building with a wide parking lot, and then a dip down onto another pair of the same. In its entirety the rentable castle is a death trap; built on a fault line, I’ve had it from an influential town council official that the apartments are sliding downhill at a terrifying rate of “one to two inches per year, sir.” When I demanded to understand how such an inevitable calamity could be built, the member insisted he was not at liberty to say and that I could put in a request with the realtor agency if I dared. That all seemed like poking the bear to me so I dropped it. As a matter of preparation, though, I keep a type-written note on my person at all times during my visits identifying the names of the suits responsible for my death and an allowance that I will accept a personal apology from the Town and from the Agency as long as it acknowledges that “I told you so”. The daily hazards of the building begin in the visitor parking lot, however. 
          Gaining the squeeze in between the lines is essential, because the fuckers will boot you or worse if a hint of aluminum hangs over the edge. I’ve seen them out there, prowling around in an old bleached out Crown Vic with the spotlight still attached, slinging around a tape measure to scrounge out any justification to give ‘em the boot. Once I was walking back to my car in the dark and I saw the damned spotlight pointed at a poor young girl and her date. Evidently the two parking pricks had taken great joy in interrupting their make-out sesh to charge them one-hundred and eighty bucks. 
          “Learn to park, sweetheart,” the bald, scaly one heckled her as he brought the boot down hard on her driver’s side front wheel, in anticipation of removing it seconds later, cash in hand. 
          “Are you kidding me? I’m barely over! You can’t boot me for that you fat bastard! I’m not paying it!,” she screeched at him.  
          “Listen, kid. I can have a truck here in less than two minutes to haul your car away, and if I do you’ll be in twice as deep. I also accept American Express and Visa,” he smiled, revealing a full set of razor-sharp, filed teeth. 
           I know, awful business and an affirmation that nothing good can be free. Whichever drunken contractor they hired to hand-paint the lines did a genuinely detestable job. Mostly, they’re too goddamn close together, complimenting an already criminally-narrow pathway shoved off to the side where the building managers surely don’t have to watch leagues of poor souls risking their bumpers and their sanity trying to fit their mom’s suburban into a space more aptly designated for a Vespa. I can picture him now: lip quivering in withdrawal, thirsty as a mule. Just eager to get the job done, he brings the white, dripping brush down between his legs and hits it in awkward reverse for about eight feet, swerving all over the place and then side-stepping two great lunges to the next one, snickering all the while about how they’ll hire anybody who doesn’t seem like a job-stealing immigrant in this doomed country. 
          So I shoved the Highlander in there, with great appreciation for Rita’s assistance but very moody and in need of carbohydrates and a cigarette. 
          “...and that was when I did it the first time, with Vic and Jess. You remember? It was the Halloween party and you were dressed as Marylin Manson. Or was it Charles? Either way you had affected an eagerly maniacal manner but fell asleep on the couch before midnight. You remember, of course. I couldn’t stop touching your hair and face,” she was reminding me as we drew along the long sidewalk towards her apartment. We were, all of us, assembling for a purposeful night of debauchery and revelation. 
          Entering, I was struck painfully by a buzzing arrangement of expensive LEDs lining the walls and turned up all the way, ready to burst with brightness. And then, I saw my little droogies. Before I could drink in the natural splendor of the assemblage of all my closest pals, I was approached by a stranger who presented himself by the name of Evan. I knew I very well could be in danger because he wiggled over holding an enormous upright bass guitar and sporting a dimpled man ass in a pair of dark purple hot pants. Based on his greeting I knew it had already begun for him.
          “HOWDY FELLA! SO GOOD TO MEETCHA, I’M EVAN! HEARD MUCH ABOUTCHA...YOU SMELL NICE,” my wrinkled nose and downcast eyes did little to stop the onslaught, “SO GLAD YOU’LL JOININ’ US FOR THIS…” I decided to forego the rest of what would invariably become a much longer, increasingly handsy conversation to turn into the kitchen. 
          The girls’ place was defined by a long, wide, carpeted corridor flanked by two bedrooms on one side and a kitchen and another bedroom on the other. The builders had essentially made one room where there could have been three, so that, if you were on the beautiful beige sectional on the opposite end of the hall, you would be unable to make out the conversations at the other end. If you were really in some sort of haze, which was common enough for the room’s visitors, even the faces at the kitchen’s adjoining dining “room” table grew blurry. The two screened windows hovering just above the couch overlooked, as I said, the worst, most commercial parts of town, but also gave the viewer an exceptional view of the surrounding mountains. The hills were always experiencing some sort of remarkable weather, catastrophic or otherwise. On this night they were blanketed by clouds moving a mile a minute over the bleary blue expanse below. There isn’t a single blank spot on the walls and ceilings of the eccentric $800/month palace; every inch was decorated with paintings, portraits, posters, photographs. There are streamers, stolen street signs, and all manner of indications of seditious sentiment. There are pride flags, pussy power flags, the hammer and sickle… Rita’s distant father, a high-ranking and overall crusty uniformed military official, had such a grievous emotional response to the parade of leftist objects that he had to be revived with smelling salts at least a dozen times before he began to accept the radicalism of his little girl. 
          I had Rita up on the kitchen counter now, in a brief break between comers and goers, and she was tonguing me pretty hard. 
          “So babe, you’ve got a few options.” It was my first time. “You can snort it, drink it mixed, or gum it. I’ll bet you should go for the gumming. It doesn't taste too good but it's the fastest.” 
          Vic came in twisting her hips and mouthing some lyrics to herself. She’s a tall blonde with big round glasses and the most impressive thrifted closet you’ve ever seen. On this occasion she was swinging around a pair of booty shorts bedazzled with “SL” on the left cheek and “UT” on the right. “Oh you’re here!” and came up and hugged me. “Load up! Load up! Everybody’s started.” There was a plate sitting next to the sink, and lined around the edges were six little thumb-sized splotches of a rocky silver powder. I pressed a spit-soaked thumb down on my portion, brought it up-turned to my lips, and slid it from one of my lower gums to the next, then brought it up to my upper gums and slid it once more along the whole length. MDMA, or Molly, or Ecstacy, tastes like dragging your tongue along the ditch of a sidewalk in early January: a mixture of road salt, gasoline, and litter. 
          I glided through from the kitchen and took my rightful place in the corner of the sectional just in time to catch Jack, the tall, steely one, and Evan discussing the potential of a new scheme to get the country Back on Track. 
          “I mean, they’re just fucking sitting there in people’s yards, barely even stuck in the grass. In one afternoon we could gather them all up and take ‘em to dump in shreds. It’s barely even a crime. They're only worth like a dollar each.” 
          Evan, who for one reason or another was ahead of all of us in the serotonin-uptake category, failed to see the importance and greater necessity of sabotage in the presidential election. “Don’t worry, man. The people see through the clown. They’ll make the right choice.” His lips were folded into a slight but telling grin, and he was reclined intensely into the couch. “It’s probably a pretty big offense, anyway.” 
          I decided to forgive him this oversight because an intense, dull nausea had overtaken me and I headed for the bathroom. In general, the effects of Molly can be sorted into several phases, though they are not exactly chronological, and the user can instead expect bursts of each of the following throughout their experience: nausea, chattiness, claminess, sweatiness, couchlock, dancing, cuddling, complementing, and perhaps most notably, lust. I was indisputably in the nausea phase and got down on my knees in front of the toilet bowl to address it. I became aware of two things: the first was that I hadn’t eaten in the past six hours, so that any thing that did come up would be pure stomach acid, which would burn the shit out of me and be an undeniable downer. The second was that if I did puke, it would be very possible that I’d throw up the powder, which would be a terrible waste and a goddamn shame. A few dry heaves were good enough and I was washing my hands when Jess approached me. She’s very short, with bleached blonde hair and a tiny, mousy voice, and she had something for me. 
          “We’ve got to get you out of those clothes”
          “Rolling that hard already?”
          “Oh stop it. I mean you have to dress up. I’ve got these cheetah-print tights that will make your ass pop and a silk leopard-print button up to go with it.” 
          “How can you tell the difference?” 
          “Don’t come out and dance until you’ve got this on”. 
          I was buttoning the shirt when I noticed the intensity of the fabric. It was so soft, so smooth. I had to sit down on Rita’s bed to drink it in, and when I got up I realized what was happening. I paused at the mirror on the door and engaged with myself in a new way. It was as if all the complements I had ever denied myself, every kind word of affirmation, was intently pressed against me, and I felt then for the first time a sureness that the world and its beautiful creatures meant me well. 
          I aimed my chest at the dance floor. 
          This stuff had been procured mysteriously from a man known only to me as a dark silhouette. Oh, I do know his name, though. The girls call him Dr. Night, and he’s got anything a young freak could need. I assume based on his menu that he’s the daring son of a permissive if not completely blind pharmacist. A selection as large as his in such a small town seems exclusive to any other circumstance. I have learned from the girls that Dr. Night communicates clearly that his services need not be rendered only by the transfer of money, and that bartering in all manner of goods is on the table. This makes him, in my eyes, a representative of the second oldest profession, and an avid supporter of the continuation of the first. And for providing me this feeling, his anonymity did not at all challenge my opinion that he was my friend. 
          The Ceremony had begun. Sweaty bodies contorted to the comforting spastic energy of early 2000s dance-pop hits. Rita grabbed me, released me. I grabbed Vic, released her. I was in between Evan and Jack, then was behind Jess. Everything was permitted. A look in the eyes of any of my friends was a secret agreement, a shared declaration of the beauty of all things. We were dancing dragons, self-appointed guardians of happiness, and we were bruising each other with gropes. I was Odysseus, taken by Calypso onto an island of love, but I did not wish for escape. This was the epitome of human purpose. Books could burn, the continents could recede into the sea: I would dance on. This trance endured for about two hours, and then the couch suddenly became very inviting.  
          The sectional was covered in wet bodies, gritting their teeth and biting their tongues. And all of them, interchangeably, were touching, kissing, and loving each other in the sight of righteous humanity. We were melting ice cubes on our spines, exchanging them with tongues. I became the base of a lovely body stack, grasping and being grasped in return. Rita and Vic shot a glance at each other, then to me, then back to each other.
          According to a website promoting the Zambian tourism industry, when a lioness is in heat, she will keep a male with her constantly, and they will mate several times an hour, all day, for almost a week. This, of course, is a very demanding ritual, and nobody could blame the poor lion for needing a rest. Nobody but the lioness, I mean. If he cannot meet her demands, she will become, well...increasingly demanding. I have seen a photograph of a lion with a mouth full of sharp horny cat teeth wrapped around his testicles. The tortured expression painted across his face spoke to a piece of my masculine identity that was either forgotten or hitherto never discovered. It was in that moment on the couch, getting scorched by the neon lights and the hot breath of my aggressively lusty girlfriend that I was reminded of the image. My hand was drawn away from the couch and into the bedroom. 
          I gave the salt lamp a few full-length licks but did not remove my gaze from the girls. I was thrust in the everlasting moment that is the envy of any reasonably sentient sexual being. Two pairs of eyes were beaming at me, all-forgiving, true and hopeful. The moment was obvious. But there's the Rub. Icarus’s wings were made of wax and they melted when he flew too close to the sun. Mine are round and the result of hormonal balance and chemical pipelines, which I had thoroughly fucked up by ingesting the serotonin road salt. Achieving an erection under the influence of several points of Ecstacy and a few shots of honey whiskey is an entirely impossible task. It would simply be too godly. 
          Aggressive cuddling was the next best thing and we could manage that. After a while, the hands began to slow down, and then I was awake again. 
          Terribly awake. 



Rexford Tugwell

Rexford Tugwell is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in literary studies in the Department of English at Appalachian State University.